Population control in China has always been a sensitive subject for those in the Western world. During the last few months, discussion has arisen that China is reconsidering its “one child” policy as it is finding a rapidly aging population, a problem with not enough babies being born and a shortage of workers and government support for elder care. The decline in birth rates and improved life expectancy over the last thirty years are driving the change in policy and China’s population of persons over 60 years old increased in 2009 by 7.25 million to 167.14 million last year, or 12.5 percent of the total population of China.
With the burden of elder care resting primarily with the family in China, the support mechanisms by a large family do not exists and will cause additional strain on the Chinese economy as pensions cannot cover the costs associated with nursing homes and the assisted living options that currently exist. In some of China’s provinces, some seniors do not receive any type of pension for any type of care or living expenses.
In a study done in July by China Youth Daily, 41.8 percent of 12,534 people polled said they do not live in the same city as their parents. Over 60 percent of those polled were born in the 1980s and 23.7 percent in the 1970s. Almost 63 percent said the main reason for "living apart" was they couldn’t afford to pay their parents’ living expenses in big cities. Other reasons included parents being unwilling to leave their hometown, being unable to adjust to life in a strange city, non-transferability of healthcare insurance, and younger people being unwilling to move back to the small towns where they were born.
Without more support from China’s government for loosening its one child policy and government spending on elder care infrastructure, the aging population may become an impediment to the country’s continued growth.